A sommelier's dream: Tasting iconic wines at Imbibe Live

Jacopo Mazzeo

Jacopo Mazzeo

15 July 2019

Whether you're a champagne obsessive, a Napa devotee or a Riesling fanatic (we all are, in fact), this year’s Imbibe Live offered plenty of top-notch masterclasses to excite your inner wine geek.

Jean Trimbach flew in from Alsace along with some of his family’s best cuvées, James Simpson MW of Pol Roger presented a stellar line-up of vintages, and Opus One’s Charlie Matthews brought a range of vintages dating back to 2005.

We managed to wrangle a seat in all of these impressive tastings  here are the iconic wines from each that we'll be fantasising about for years to come. 

Trimbach Clos Sainte Hune Riesling

Trimbach is one of the oldest wineries still active in Alsace and some of its bottlings are seen by somms as archetypes of what the region is all about. Clos Sainte Hune is Trimbach’s most celebrated label, made with fruit sourced from the namesake 1.67ha plot near Hunawir.

The vines are approximately 50 to 70 years old but the vineyard has been in the Trimbach family’s hands for some 200 years. Picking occurs later than usual to ensure maximum ripeness and concentration; the resulting wine is matured for at least six years before release.

Jean Trimbach brought two vintages to Imbibe Live, the 2013 and the 2005. The former was uber-concentrated and dense, with a marked richness helped by the use of 15% botrytised grapes (not present in all vintages). The aromatic palate featured lemon, lime, ginger, dried orange peel and a noticeable stony note. Long and intense, powerful.

The 2005, on the other hand, was more gentle, with no noble rot involved in the process. Nutty and creamy, with warming notes of honey and dried white stone fruit, this was the purest expression of Alsace Riesling.

Pol Roger Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill

The link between Pol Roger and Sir Winston Churchill dates back to a luncheon given by the British ambassador to France following the liberation of Paris. Both Churchill and Odette Pol-Roger attended the event and a sincere friendship developed between the two.

The champagne house developed a robust, Pinot Noir-dominant label made with fruit from Grand Cru vineyards only to celebrate its friendship with the statesman. The first vintage was the 1975, released 10 years later in 1985.

During the masterclass, James Simpson MW presented a trio of vintages including the latest release, 2008 and the 1998. 

The 2008 is an elegant expression of the cuvée, rich on the nose with aromas of brioche, wet stone, white flowers, hazelnuts, dried orange peel and fresh grapefruit juice. A vintage champagne that can be easily enjoyed now, but that will benefit from another decade of cellar ageing.

The 1998 had a totally different character. Although the golden colour disclosed its age, there was still some youthful freshness to it, along with clear signs of a healthy evolution of flavours. More powerful than the 2008 and beautifully textured, this vintage is characterised by a full body and great depth. Twenty years old, but with even more to say in the coming decades.

Opus One

Opus One is arguably one of the most iconic Napa wines. Yet there’s just as much California in it as there is Bordeaux, being the brainchild of Robert Mondavi’s pioneering American spirit and Philippe de Rothschild’s Bordelaise expertise.

Charlie Matthews, Opus One export manager for Europe, presented a number of vintages from 2005 all the way to its latest release in 2015. Two bottlings really stood out: 2011 and 2013.

The 2011 (Cabernet Sauvignon 71%, Merlot 11%, Petit Verdot 9%, Cabernet Franc 8%, Malbec 1%) was the result of an unusual, relatively wet vintage, which lent the wine a more Bordelaise vibe.

‘Opus One’s logo features the two profiles of Mondavi and Rothschild,’ explained Matthews, ‘and the 2011 vintage clearly verges more towards the Baron’s side of it.’ Rainfall during flowering meant lower yields but also increased flavour concentration, while the overall cooler growing season led to the higher percentage of Merlot at the expenses of Cabernet Sauvignon.

The nose is beautifully lean, with elegant aromatics of flowers, bright red fruits and bay leaf, a crunchy palate and expressive savouriness.

The 2013 (Cabernet Sauvignon 79%, Cabernet Franc 7%, Merlot 6%, Petit Verdot 6%, Malbec 2%) showed a completely opposite character. It’s the classic Napa vintage, the ideal vintage from a viticultural perspective, with the blend mirroring what the vineyards are planted to: ‘always a clear indicator of a good vintage,’ Matthews said. 

It shows great concentration, powerful tannins, plenty of dark fruit (blueberry, cassis and blackberry), a very long finish and an elegant dark chocolate note.

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